Do you have an actuarial graduate job interview coming? Adam Smith from APR gives us his top interview tips for actuaries to help you succeed…

Widen your research

Research is a key part of the preparation for any interview, however too many candidates commit all their researching time on the employees and management of the company and memorising the company’s website. We would recommend to also spending some time looking at a wider range of information relevant to the company such as the challenges the company faces, issues surrounding the sector they work in and the profession. If the company has a news section on their website, this would be a good place to start. Many interviews will include questions on topics like these and you will therefore be better prepared to answer.

Don’t download everything you know about a subject

Sometimes high-level knowledge of many different topics is better than knowing every single detail of one as it will allow you to give broader answers. When researching a topic, there are a couple of things that you should give thought to.

What’s it about?

This doesn’t mean that you should memorise the entire wording of a policy or article, this would take a lot of time and is unlikely to impress an interviewer. However, you should have a good idea of what it is about overall and be able to explain this when asked.

What is the potential impact?

It is useful to consider any impact that this subject may have, or is having, on the profession and, more specifically, the prospective employer. An interviewer would not expect you to produce exact facts and figures quantifying any impacts, but having some ideas and discussing these will go a long way.

What sort of questions that might be asked in the interview?

The questions asked in an interview will vary from company to company. Some of typical interview questions might include:

  • What attracted you to this company?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • What can you bring to this role?
  • What sets you apart from other applicants?
  • Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge.
  • What would you do differently if faced with the same challenge today?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
  • What do you think are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  • What has been your greatest achievement?

However, these could be asked in different ways, so it is important that you are able to adapt any prepared answers based on the wording used by the interviewer.

Ask questions

Interviewers are often more impressed by candidates that ask them questions at the end of the interview, so it is useful to prepare some questions that you want to ask. However, do ensure that any questions you ask have not already been answered throughout the course of the interview as this may indicate to the interviewer that you don’t have good listening skills. If your questions have already been answered, try asking the interviewer details about their role or experiences working at the company.

Short, concise answers are best

Interviewers will find it hard to follow answers where the candidate has rambled or overly used filler words such as ‘erm’ or ‘like’. Practice getting straight to the point and answer the questions asked without veering off topic, if the interviewer wants you to expand any of your points then they will ask follow up questions.

Don’t over-prepare

Not only is it important to know what’s on your CV, but you should also be aware of the skills that your achievements have demonstrated as this could become relevant to questions you’re asked in interviews. However, don’t have word-for-word prepared answers for every possible line of questioning. One of the skills employers are looking for is the ability to think on your feet.

It’s not about how much you want it

Many candidates will spend time during their interview expressing how much they want the position and how hard they will work if they receive the offer. While this may sound like something you should also do, it is not a good use of the limited time that you have. Interviewers are much more interested in seeing your personality and the quality of work that you can bring to the role, so try to showcase this in your answers instead.

How do I demonstrate soft skills in an interview?

While some skills may be measured through testing, such as personality or aptitude tests during the application process, candidates may also be asked to demonstrate certain soft skills through competency-based questions such as ‘give me an example of when you worked well in a team’. These can be difficult to answer but we recommend familiarising yourself with the STAR Method to ensure that you answer the question clearly and concisely, emphasising how your soft skills led to your success.


Those interviewing you are normal people too who were in the same position as you at some point. They will want to see who you are as a person and not just your academic achievements. So, letting your personality shine through and being yourself will help your chances of success.

About the Author

  • Name: Adam Smith
  • Organisation: APR

Adam is a Senior Actuarial Associate and Graduate Recruitment function lead at APR, an actuarial consultancy that works across the life and general insurance sectors. APR places more than usual emphasis on the quality of graduate recruits, as demonstrated by their pass rates in the actuarial exams, which regularly excess 80% - far in excess of industry average.

Interviews - How to Succeed
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